Pope poll

Here’s what we’re used to: crazy poll choices that make the right answer obvious.

Do you support attempts by atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens to have Pope Benedict XVI arrested over his handling of child sex abuse claims?

Yes, what happened to these children is horrific and the Pope should be held accountable for his role in the cover-up.

No, they are using the terrible tragedy of child sex abuse to pursue their vendetta against religion.


Next, we’ll have a poll about adult rape cases in which one question tries to distract everyone from the guilty by deploring the terrible tragedy of what happened to the women and the vendetta feminists have against men.


  1. MikeTheInfidel says

    I wouldn’t call that a heavy lean towards sanity… in fact, I’m shocked that it’s as close as it is.

  2. kilternkafuffle says

    Total votes: 2393

    There’s enough room to reduce the apologists to single digits.

  3. justinak87 says

    Of course I support having people arrested who fail to protect children in their charge and report perpetrators of sex crimes.. Who wouldn’t?

  4. Zeno says

    Shucks! Why do people keep forgetting that religion is so important (though anyone can tell you that all save his own are wrong) that we must be tolerant of the human foibles (man’s sin nature!) that cause occasional minor slip-ups (like child rape or stuff like that).

    (Are there good career opportunities in apologetics? [And why has “apologetics” never seemed more apt as a word?])

  5. a.f.diplotti says

    I hate polls phrased this way. Why can’t they use just “Yes” and “No,” and leave any rationales to individual poll takers?

    Poll: Do you agree with me?

    • Yes, I’m über-smart.

    • No, I’m a complete moron.

  6. Cuttlefish, OM says

    Let’s treat the Pope with deference
    Because he wears a cape;
    Keep quiet any reference
    To cover-up or rape;
    We mustn’t hurt the skeptic cause
    (You understand, I hope)
    By making sure the proper laws
    Still hold when one is Pope.

    I would hope that, as a skeptic,
    I can call his actions bad—
    I do the same as teacher,
    And as poet, and as dad,
    As a member of humanity,
    Or any group at all,
    I’ll say he’s not untouchable—
    It’s time to see him fall.

  7. cookieacct says

    There is very simplistic poll at The London Free Press (London, Ontario, Canada)


    just asking if the pope should be arrested or not.
    The good news is it already at 95% in favour.
    A few more votes couldn’t hurt

  8. alysonmiers says

    Just in case some readers might have had their own ideas about the challenge to the Pope’s legal immunity, the poll writers are there to remind us that it’s a fight between atheists and religion. As opposed to, I don’t know, perhaps, those who defend human rights and those who think they’re above the law?

  9. JasonTD says

    I expect essentially universal condemnation of the Pope from regular vistors here. However, I am more than a little disturbed by the whole ‘universal jurisdiction’ arguments for actually arresting him. Even proponents of universal jurisdiction reserve it for war crimes or ‘crimes against humanity’, which are defined as follows by the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court:

    …are particularly odious offenses in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings. They are not isolated or sporadic events, but are part either of a government policy (although the perpetrators need not identify themselves with this policy) or of a wide practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority. However, murder, extermination, torture, rape, political, racial, or religious persecution and other inhumane acts reach the threshold of crimes against humanity only if they are part of a widespread or systematic practice. Isolated inhumane acts of this nature may constitute grave infringements of human rights, or depending on the circumstances, war crimes, but may fall short of meriting the stigma attaching to the category of crimes under discussion. On the other hand, an individual may be guilty of crimes against humanity even if he perpetrates one or two of the offences mentioned above, or engages in one such offense against only a few civilians, provided those offenses are part of a consistent pattern of misbehavior by a number of persons linked to that offender (for example, because they engage in armed action on the same side or because they are parties to a common plan or for any similar reason.) Consequently when one or more individuals are not accused of planning or carrying out a policy of inhumanity, but simply of perpetrating specific atrocities or vicious acts, in order to determine whether the necessary threshold is met one should use the following test: one ought to look at these atrocities or acts in their context and verify whether they may be regarded as part of an overall policy or a consistent pattern of an inhumanity, or whether they instead constitute isolated or sporadic acts of cruelty and wickedness.

    The abuse would need to be ‘widespread’ to fit this definition, and that is a fairly vague term to use. How many priests need to be abusers for it to be widespread? 1 in 10, 1 in 100, 1 in 1000? What sort of numbers are we talking about here, exactly?

    Next, the crimes need to be ‘tolerated or condoned’. It can be argued that the abuse was tolerated to the extent that it was not handled in a way consistent with the magnitude of the crime. (I.e. priests being transferred or ‘counseled’ rather than handed over to legal authorities.)

    However, if you read that definition I quoted, it is harder to justify pinning ‘crimes against humanity’ on the Pope himself. He is not accused of being an abuser. Nor have I read anything about him being accused of having specific foreknowledge of abuse. What he is being accused of is covering up past abuse by other individuals. Would covering up a crime against humanity be a crime against humanity itself? I think that is much less clear.

    I think that is more than a bit of a stretch to go with the crimes against humanity argument here, even if you do accept the universal jurisdiction principle (which I have plenty of reservations about). If we were to go with universal jurisdiction, we would want the threshold for such crimes to be set very high. To do otherwise invites every nation to make up its own standards for what falls under such jurisdiction. I don’t want to see Islamic countries arresting people that speak out against terrorism claiming that they are engaging in ‘widespread religious persecution’.

  10. desertfroglet says

    Miranda Devine is a morally bankrupt creature. Here’s the conclusion to her article, which is an anti-atheist diatribe lightly masked with some mild tut-tutting at the RCC.

    What is the motive: to destroy the credibility of the strongest moral voice left? Would the world be a better place without the Catholic Church? Without Christianity? That is the end point of this game, which should frighten everyone, whether religious or not.

    In Miranda’s world, paedophiles are bad, but obviously preferable to atheists.

  11. Steven Dunlap says

    82% in favor of arrest as of early morning on the 15th. 13 hours before the poll closes.

  12. Steven Dunlap says

    @ #14 JasonTD

    Standard disclaimer : not a lawyer, not giving legal advice.

    Jason, you appear to have conflated some legal concepts here. Perhaps someone with a real J.D. and some expertise in international law can weigh in. The confusion I see in you post results from very easy mistakes to make.

    As well as I understand, the concept of universal jurisdiction applies more to extradition and to crimes committed away from the jurisdiction in which the suspect is prosecuted. The crime in question is not the child rape itself but conspiracy regarding the cover up. Since the primary crime (rape) took place in the UK, once the Pope arrives on UK soil then hypothetically he could be arrested. Since the conspiracy pertains to a crime committed in the jurisdiction, the charge of crimes against humanity, etc. does not apply. (Such ideas may prove interesting topics for discussion, but you pointed out the fuzzy in that line of argument in your post, which is not an argument that I am making now).

    A better example of a claim to universal jurisdiction is when the Israelis kidnapped Eichmann from Argentina then put him on trial in Israel. No one is seriously proposing sending in the retrieval squad to the Vatican to chuck Ratzi in a bag then bring him to trial somewhere else.

    Any lawyers want to take a crack at this? Am I totally off-base here?

  13. DeusExNihilum says

    Why is it that everyone (pointing at the people who make the poles/interview hitchens and dawkins) are OH SO READY to jump on the “This is just another part of your vendetta against religion” bandwaggon.

    No. No you morally and intellectually bankrupt assholes. This has, essentially, NOTHING to do with religion – Its about bringing justice to the perpetrators and accomplices of Systematic Child rape that has gone on for decades and in multiple countries.

    The only point at which “Religion” factors into it, is that everyone who is “Religious” seemingly doesn’t want to stand up for the side of Justice, and would rather simply shrug and say “But it’s the pope”.


  14. chgo_liz says

    Jason @ #14:

    Thanks for that definition. You’ve made it clear to me that in all particulars, the Vatican as an independent government has committed “crimes against humanity.”

    Probably not the response you were hoping for.

  15. cameron says

    Cuttlefish, is that poem directed specifically at Phil Plait’s latest
    post on the matter? Because it certainly sounds like you are taking him to task.

  16. Victor says

    “The abuse would need to be ‘widespread’ to fit this definition”

    Well, cases in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia that I know of. Sounds pretty widespread to me.

    “Next, the crimes need to be ‘tolerated or condoned’ ”

    That definitely fits.

    “Nor have I read anything about him being accused of having specific foreknowledge of abuse.”

    Then you haven’t been reading the news. He was in charge of the group handling child rape allegations, and they have his signature on papers that prove his knowledge.

    If anyone is guilty of crimes against humanity, the current Pope is.

    Good luck on your agenda of defending child rapists.

  17. irenedelse says

    Meanwhile, Benedict shows that he’s still totally out of it.

    Today, he publicly made for the first time a veiled reference to the current scandal, but instead of asking forgiveness for the pedophile priests’ actions, or vowing to scour the Church of all criminals, he vaguely calls to all Catholics to “do penance” because “the world talks to us of their sins”. If he wants to smear every last member of the RCC flock with the taint of child abuse, he’s doing a great job of it. Big fail.

    Maybe he should get clue from the BCA: when you don’t have a leg to stand on, don’t try to stamp…

  18. https://me.yahoo.com/a/f6mlOJRx0uRRwa4YC458psXyAypkjXA-#3cbc8 says

    How on earth can anyone turn this into an atheists vs. non-atheists problem? No, this is a problem where children are being raped. Sure, you can say it’s because of problems within the religion (and it probably is), but arguing AGAINST stopping it for essentially political reasons? That’s insanity.

  19. csreid says

    I really don’t like the way “atheist” is used here. Seems to me that Hitchens’ and Dawkin’s status as a couple of guys who think child rape is wrong is much more relevant than their status as people who don’t believe in god.


    What is the motive: to destroy the credibility of the strongest moral voice left?

    When “the strongest moral voice” we have plays a part in child-rape, methinks we’re fucked anyway.

  20. elzoog says

    “vendetta feminists have against men”

    You mean like for example, the SCUM manifesto?

  21. Shadow says

    What is the motive: to destroy the credibility of the strongest moral voice left?

    But they aren’t advocating a moral position on this.

    Would the world be a better place without the Catholic Church?


    Without Christianity?

    Again, yes.

  22. LeeLeeOne says

    I have been a totally circuitous route today. I started with this particular discussion. From there I went to a question, which lead to another and another and another…. I find myself in the middle of yet another… http://www.hulu.com/watch/53868/independent-lens-mapping-stem-cell-research-terra-incognita#s-p1-so-i0

    I apologize if the link does not work. But I know all of you will or can research this link and maybe find what I am watching.

    There is no moral positions, there is nothing that says supernatural… It just says SCIENCE.

  23. Cath the Canberra Cook says

    Victor, you forgot Australia. Or if you haven’t heard any, let me assure you there is. When Pope Ratzi visited there was a lot of fuss, and a man whose 2 daughters had been raped got a lot of newstime when the pope refused to meet with him. (Outcome iirc: one suicide, one very troubled drug addict, one re-allocated and undefrocked priest.)

    So – that’s Australia, Europe, Asia, North America, South America. Has anyone got Africa and Antarctica for a full house, and India for bonus points? I know of physical abuse in India and the encouragement of AIDS in Africa, but have not yet heard of sexual abuse cases there.

    Does every continent but Antarctica count as “widespread” enough?

  24. Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom says

    The pope’s recognized as head of a sovereign state. I don’t actually want him arrested, because I like the fact that when my president goes abroad, I have relatively little to fear in terms of him being arrested for crimes committed by my country.

    In an absolutely perfect world, sure, the pope and his hat would each get their own separate cells in prison. BTW, spoiler alert: Child rapists are not popular in prison. But because the pope is recognized as a head of state (Even if he shouldn’t be), he’s pretty much immune to charges as ‘minor’ as conspiracy to commit pedophilia (Which is probably the highest charge we honestly have the evidence for, and /that’s/ a stretch). But the regular priests? Yeah, they don’t have such lovely things as diplomatic immunity.

  25. Kliwon says

    89% for
    11% against
    9,256 votes
    Figures as at 08:30 AEDT (UTC + 10)
    I will update when poll closes at 12:00 AEDT.
    The woman who wrote the opinion piece is a professional stirrer. It’s her job to take a controversial position and write an article defending it. She’s also a conservative and (obviously) Chatholic.

  26. tiggerthewing#8a4e4 says

    Aah! It’s gone down to 88% for, 12% against with two hours left…

  27. Copyleft says

    Oh, can’t it be both?

    After all, it’s not like the “vendetta” isn’t ENTIRELY JUSTIFIED and NECESSARY or anything…..

  28. bassmanpete says

    Only about 10 minutes left and the Nos are pulling back slightly from 89-11 to 87-13. Get voting!

    Good to see most of the comments on the article are against Ms Devine.

  29. Charlie Foxtrot says

    Ha! – I found the poll and voted before getting to Pharyngula today, but I saw the numbers that had voted (10k+) and detected a distinct tang of…squid?… in the air :)
    87% / 13% now.

  30. Patricia, Ignorant Slut OM says

    I say crucify the old bastard. Or burn him at the stake.

    It was good enough for my ancestors, it’s good enough for him.

  31. Janet Holmes says

    I think it would be wonderful if there were countries the Pope was unable to visit due to fear of arrest, it would be best if he was unable to leave the Vatican altogether!

    I live in hope.

  32. Jason Ball says

    They’ve also attached the poll to Europe Correspondent Paola Totaro’s recent piece about when she got to meet the Pope:


    The gentle old man who held my hand high above the Australian desert is also the religious leader who personally jettisoned support for a facility created solely to save the lives of the most desperate of drug addicts. This very same septuagenarian also stayed silent about men – felons in fact – who wouldn’t last a second at the hands of their peers in a high security prison.

  33. Cruithne says

    This from the article by Ms Devine

    Why, for instance, should the Dutch be surprised by the launch in 2006 of a paedophile party, the Charity, Freedom and Diversity (NVD) party, which wanted to cut the age of consent from 16 to 12.

    What she doesn’t seem to realise is that the vatican also has a legal age of consent, and guess what it is?

    That’s right, it’s 12

  34. Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom says

    I would like to point out to my fellow atheists, whom are surely devoted to the rule of law, that the highest charges that you could reasonably stick on the pope are conspiracy, accessory, and evasion of justice charges. Execution for such charges would be completely barbaric, above and beyond normal execution.